January 15, 2008

Hits You In The Chest Like an 808 Boooom...

by Chris Randall

I decided recently, for varying reasons (but mostly a massive desire to Just Know), that I wanted to learn everything there was about how the 606, 808, and 909 make their sounds. I have my Ideal x0x Drum Kit, which is a set I've painstakingly assembled, consisting of a 909 foot, 808 snare, 606 hats, and a mix of percussion from the three machines, some layered. I'm very happy with this kit and I use it a lot, but being me, I just can't leave well enough alone, and I figured if I knew the "why" of these sounds, I could theoretically use the concepts in making my own set, with its own mojo, not borrowed mojo.

Rambling aside, here's what I've learned: most anyone that has written on the subject of dissecting the various x0x sounds doesn't have the faintest fucking idea of what they're talking about. If I find four different learned articles on how to synthesize a 909 foot, there are four different topologies. If I build all four, I discover that at least three, if not all four, are complete fabrications, resulting in an unusable piece of shit sound that seems more like the farting of a large dog. This is the same for any of the key sounds. When you get to the "Cymbals" section of any of these various sources, they're all like "oh, those are hard. Here's how we faked it," with uniformly tragic results.

The first place I looked was the (I thought) excellent guide from Waldorf on synthesizing drums (it is here, but don't bother, seriously.) This guide is essentially worthless. They literally made shit up, because it sounded right. There is are a couple dozen articles from Sound On Sound in their "Synth Secrets" series, but those are, I've found, hit or miss. There are actually two separate articles in that series about the 909 foot, with wildly diverging topologies described. They could easily be talking about different drum machines entirely.

And heaven fucking forbid I read any forum post on the subject. Christ on crutches.

The long and short of it is this: does ANYBODY have any fucking idea whatsoever as to how to actually make these sounds? I've gotten close, real close. I'm fairly good at synthesizing percussion in general with both analog synths and boxes-n-wires softsynths, but I just can't seem to get the Mojo working, you know?

(And to save you the trouble of typing as if I'm some kind of dumb-ass ape, I'm not actually asking "how do I synthesize a 909 foot?" This is more of a meta rant. What I want to know is where the Magic Smoke is hidden on the schematic.)



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Jan.15.2008 @ 3:26 PM
I apologize for splitting hairs, but if the post title is from "Love Is The Shit" by Spearhead it should be chest, not face...


Jan.15.2008 @ 3:56 PM
what modular environment is that? it looks snazzy.

Jan.15.2008 @ 3:58 PM
Shouldn't it possible to simulate the electronic components of these things and run signals through them to hear the results? Then, you can manipulate the electronic components (e.g. swap a capacitor out) and see what happens.

Jan.15.2008 @ 4:00 PM
That is synthmaker, I believe.

Jan.15.2008 @ 4:04 PM
The 909 has a pretty particular beater click. It also has some variation from hit to hit even if you leave the knobs alone, which I suppose adds some subliminal excitement that doesn't seem to survive sampling.

I've come pretty close in Sound Forge, just putting pitch envelopes on sine waves, and then using the pencil tool to draw in the beater click. But aside from that it's all PFM which is why you can still get $900 for a 909 even though they've been sampled a gazillion times.


Jan.15.2008 @ 4:27 PM
Chris Randall
That's actually an interesting point. The "attack" of a 909 foot is, as far as I can ascertain, a combination of the actual CV pulse that triggers the event mixed with a little LP-filtered white noise. This is actually where I'm running in to issues, because one could theoretically just use a low-tuned square wave for that pulse sound, but it's not _right._ And the noise, I can't figure out what they're doing there, either.

@ davetron, no, not really. All those companies that say they've modeled the circuitry of this-or-that are essentially lying.

@ 33degrees, yes.

@ Stream, oops. You right. Fixed.



Jan.15.2008 @ 4:49 PM
IIRC, in the Logic manual(ultrabeat) they say something to the effect " It's not really possible to model these sounds exactly so we wont bother, but here's something close." Not an exact quote but you get the picture.

Can't remember who has the better emulation, but both of these companies have highly regarded clones. Fastest route would be to ask them-usually gets results.

link [www.d16.pl]">link [www.d16.pl]

link [www.audiorealism.s...]">link [www.audiorealism.s...]


Jan.15.2008 @ 5:13 PM
i have to ask: what's with the use of the word foot instead of kick? just curious.

Jan.15.2008 @ 5:24 PM
Chris Randall
I learned production from various Acid Trax people, and they all called it "foot." So I do. I guess you'd say it was Chicago House vernacular.

And I can't speak for the D16 offering, but the AudioRealism ADM is sample-based. In any case, the information I'd be looking for would almost certainly be IP, and thus an asset, of the company in question. So, no, it's not likely they'd give it to me.



Jan.15.2008 @ 5:57 PM
Ah, no ADM can play samples but NO, the emulations are NOT sample based at all..nor are the D16 ones..


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